Home Big Finish REVIEW: Torchwood: Sabotage

REVIEW: Torchwood: Sabotage

Torchwood: Sabotage. Cover by Sean Longmore (c) Big Finish

Ace and Colchester are back together again, but on opposites sides of a conflict filled character piece

Colchester can’t stand it. He knows Ace planned it. What could it be? Is it a mirage? She’s scheming on a thing, that’s sabotage. Yes, the spiciest couple in Big Finish’s Torchwood range are back and doing what they do best: argue. But in Torchwood: Sabotage their unusual friendship faces a real threat which threatens to explode their cautious mutual respect with the power of Nitro-19. In their previous two encounters the pair were working towards the same aims. Yes, they cast a cynical side eye over each other’s motives and worldviews. But whether exposing a covert alien takeover or saving McShane’s charity, they were on the same side. But this latest story places them firmly on opposing sides in a bitter conflict.

Officially, Dorothy McShane is in India to lead A Charitable Earth’s relief efforts to help a community displaced by the construction of a refinery on their ancient land. Meanwhile, on paper, Mr. Colchester’s services have been sub-contracted to Vultura as a security consultant for their mining operations. That would be tense enough, but McShane (“Please, when we’re blowing stuff up, call me ‘Ace’,”) is orchestrating a campaign of sabotage that will see her arrested as a terrorist if caught. Meanwhile, Vultura have no plans for peaceful co-existence. They’ve mandated Colchester and lawyer Dyson to find ways to divert the compensation fund back to their own pockets. All while forcing the local populace into thinly disguised concentration camps.

The stage is set for all out war, with neither of the friends quite able to believe the other’s choice of sides.

 

Paul Clayton and Sophie Aldred continue to make this sub-strand of Torchwood stories a highlight of the range

The partnership between Paul Clayton and Sophie Aldred continues to be the absolute core of these stories. Both actors continue to provide some of their best work for Big Finish when paired together. The characters themselves, too, are rarely better than in these ‘Colchane’ outings. In the Among Us series of box sets, Colchester typically seems to barely tolerate his own teammates and operates from a deep misanthropy about the human race. Ace, though, seems to be about the only person on Earth able to make him feel almost guilty about some of his life choices, and one of the only ones whose good opinion he values.

On the other side, these stories allow Sophie Aldred to commit to one of the most consistent and satisfying portrayals of Ace on audio. Various stories have written or rewritten her personality and history several times over. Meanwhile stories set post-Survival have so often focused on her feelings about the Doctor that it’s been difficult to get a sense of her as a person. But Torchwood’s version of Ace uses her Doctor Who past as one strand in her life story while never suffocating her under its weight.

The duo appear alongside a superb guest cast of Tom Hanson as Dyson, a man untroubled by a conscience, Shaheen Khan as a fiery mayor, and Anant Varman as angry and determined teenage would-be bomber Jamal. Between them, they make Sabotage an acting showcase as well as a complex interpersonal and political drama.

 

The cast of Torchwood: Sabotage (c) Big Finish
The cast of Torchwood: Sabotage (c) Big Finish

Some of the plot mechanics required to place the pair at odds don’t quite convince in an otherwise compelling story

What doesn’t quite work is the way the somewhat artificial way the plot puts Colchester and McShane at odds. The CEO of A Charitable Earth is risking everything she’s spent decades building by returning to her bomb-making ways. But there’s no satisfying answer as to why this situation, compared to all the Earthbound horrors she must have seen, pushes her over that line. Meanwhile, Colchester regularly expresses shock at how underhanded and ruthless his Vultura bosses can be. It’s odd from a man who always sees the dark side of everything, and could probably deconstruct a little girl playing with a puppy into a critique of everything wrong with the human condition. And, indeed, while dispatching Colchester to work for them feels like a very Yvonne move, it’s an assignment you’d expect him to constantly complain about, rather than spend making excuses for Vultura’s excesses.

Similarly, the shape of the plot demands the two keep some crucial secrets from each other. But once everyone keeps their cards on the table, it’s difficult to see exactly why they didn’t just tell us other everything much earlier. Except that is, that then there wouldn’t have been much of a story.

Nevertheless, the end result is well worth any quibbles about the story logic. Sabotage is a superbly drawn character piece showcasing two of Big Finish’s stronger performers. And as greedy as it seems to ask for fourth helpings: can we have some more, please? In fact, maybe it’s time for Colchester to bring Ace home to meet the parents, so to speak…

 

Torchwood: Sabotage. Cover by Sean Longmore (c) Big Finish

Torchwood: Sabotage

Vultura has started mining some mountains in a state in India. The local villagers are displaced into a resettlement camp, and are retaliating. Brought in to stop the sabotage is Mr Colchester, who finds that the camp is overseen by Ace. Who is causing the sabotage? His suspicions are aroused. Ace always was good with explosives.

Torchwood: Sabotage is now available to own as a collector’s edition CD (+ download for just £10.99) or as a digital download only (for £8.99), exclusively here.

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